Monday, April 25, 2011

Traveler vs. Tourist

Broken down in a little village in Southern Tanzania.  Just another adventure! Photo circa 2007.
One of the greatest gift of cruising to a place via sailboat is the fact that you are - almost always - viewed as a traveler, and not a tourist.  The other night our new friend Dee made this distinction - and I thought it interesting enough to share...

What's the difference?

The tourist can be found at the all-inclusive resort.  The traveler will be found at the local coffe shop.  The tourist will emerge from an air-conditioned tour bus where they will frantically snap a bunch of photos and rush back into the bus to head to the next site.  The traveler will be jam-packed into public transportation, potentially alongside live animals and might even have someone else's child thrust into their arms...

The tourist will only eat at the 'white' establishments deemed "safe" by their resort.  The traveler will dine on local cuisine, in local cafeterias among local people (Montezuma be damned!).  The tourist complains in a nasally voice that no one speaks English.  The traveler tries to communicate in the local dialect (mostly unsuccessfully (wince) - but not for want of trying!)...

The tourist bounces from trinket shop to trinket shop buying shell boxes, woven wallets, and little shot glasses that say "Viva la ____" while the traveler collects momentos from the beach or from the locals' whom they have befriended.  The tourist has a detailed agenda and schedule, the traveler has intentions and flexible plans...

What the tourist despises, the traveler loves:  Broken down busses, roadside riots, sudden strikes, flat tires, wrong turns, flash floods, taking the wrong train to the wrong town (whoopsie!)..etc...  To the tourist these are major inconveniences (even catastrophes) - to the traveler they are recipes for adventure...

Where the tourist sees an obstacle, the traveler sees an opportunity...
Where the tourist sees dirt and disgust, the traveler sees a simple beauty...

The difference is in the mindset.  The traveler seeks to learn more about the world around him, whereas the tourist is looking for an escape.  The traveler tries to understand a new culture, the tourist prefers to see only what is appealing...

For the traveler - it's the journey that counts, for the tourist it's the destination...

While both Scott and I have had moments where we have been both tourists and travelers - we have learned that being a traveler provides a much richer experience.  Locals have more respect for you, they're more likely to view you as equals and see you as people and not just dollar signs.  Yesterday I hitched a ride to shore on a local fishing boat who's friendship we have made here in Luperon;  I offered him a few pesos as a "thank you".  He simply looked at me with a beaming smile, closed my fingers over my open palm and said, "I like you more than I like money".

You won't be hearing that at the local Sandals resort.

The traveler sees what he sees.  
The tourist sees what he has come to see.  
~G.K. Chesterton

Love,
Brittany & Scott

14 comments:

Mary @The Sweet Bookshelf said...

WOW! Love this post!!

Anonymous said...

That has got to be the most beautiful comparison I have ever read and has left me speechless, in awe........thank you.

Danny said...

Don't get to carried away with the idealism of being a "traveler". You are still just passing through not living the culture, and there is a big difference. As an expat living in Thailand we sure don't "love" flash floods for example. A couple weeks ago one killed 10 villagers and destroyed a lot of homes!

Croc Bones Crew said...

Brilliant post! Sounds like you are both having a truely unique journey. Enjoy

Melanie and Drew said...

Hello Brittany,
Talked to you by email as you were passing through Myrtle Beach SC. We are looking for a boat and have found what we think would be a sweet boat. It is an Island Packet 31. It is very spacious compared to some 36 and 38ft boats we have seen and appears to be a good cruising boat. Do you have any comments(I know you love your boat) but do you wish you had a larger boat?
Thanks,

Drew

PAYROLLMAN said...

That was absolutely beautiful. You have a gift for writing and it shows. Thank you for all of your work on this blog - I REALLY enjoy reading it AND the beautiful pictures.

Bill

Windtraveler said...

Thanks for the comments all!!
@ Danny - you make a good point...I was an expat as well for three years in Tanzania and I do agree that some of those types of experiences could be annoying/dangerous...but for the most part I believe a traveler sees adventure where a tourist sees inconvenience. Having sold safaris for a living in Tz I saw this A LOT. Some clients were travelers, others were tourists. There was a very distinct difference.
@ Melanie and Drew!!! I remember!! Congrats - we would have *loved* an Island Packet - they are GREAT boats, very seaworthy, well laid out, and hold their value. We have never wanted another boat - and space hasn't really been an issue for us because we are just making the most of what we have...eventually, one day, we might upgrade to a 38 or 40 foot boat, but for now - we love our lil' 35er. Congrats on the IP - you will love it. So happy for you!
@Payrollman - thank you for your kind words...always appreciated. Warms my heart to know people are enjoying! :)

Hilary said...

ABSOLUTELY your best post to date! I am enjoying reading about your travels, but watching you hit your literary stride is almost as rewarding! At this rate, and with your passion, I suspect your writing will be up there with the "it" girls of cruising very soon. And I mean that most sincerely. Well done!!!!!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Another great post! We're definitely not tourists, always avoiding the souvenir shops and looking for the places the locals hang out. It's the only way to really "feel" the place.

Danny said...

Thanks for acknowledging my point Brittany. I would just add a caution about labels such as "tourist" and "traveler", mainly because that's just what they are labels. They also have a way of sounding elitist. We are not all the same, some tourist get a lot out of their trip and some travelers are just bums and could care less about the culture. As you did say ... its the "mindset" that counts. Not the label you give yourself.

Windtraveler said...

@ Hillary - thanks so much!! Made my day :)
@ MLC - you got it!
@ Danny - you are 100% correct - but for the sake of my point, I was making general statements based on my experiences...of course there are travelers who are tourists and visa versa...but for the sake of making the distinction (which I do believe there is one - otherwise people would not despise cruise ships and what they do to the places they visit) i took the liberty to generalize. I agree with you, though. Labels, in general, are not useful.

Jessica Gatto said...

That was amusing! Sounds like you had a pretty interesting adventure that day. I am still wondering how the Tourist got her job

Jessica Gatto said...

that day. I am still wondering how the Tourist got her job.

M Kemler said...

I think I have a little of both in me but striving for more traveler. Great post :)

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